Waves of Mercy

Have you ever prayed about a decision but when you followed through on where God was leading, everything went wrong? You probably asked, “Did I really hear from God? How could He allow this to happen?”waves-of-mercy-cover-1

immigrantsMy newest novel, “Waves of Mercy,” (which releases on October 4) tells the true story of the Dutch immigrants who settled the town of Holland, Michigan in 1846. These faithful Christian men and women, who suffered religious persecution in the Netherlands, prayed about what to do and felt God leading them to America, where religious freedom was guaranteed. So they left beautiful, centuries-old cities to move to the virgin wilderness of Michigan and live in crude log cabins. The first summer, malaria struck the community killing many settlers. A year later, a ship called the Phoenix, carrying 225 passengers, including 175 Dutch immigrants, caught fire and sank in Lake Michigan, five miles from their destination. 180 men, women and children died. As the bewildered immigrants buried their loved ones, they must have asked, “Did we really hear from God? How could He allow these tragedies to happen?”

gods-and-kingsI battled similar questions when writing my first novel, “Gods and Kings.” I had an opportunity to go to Israel on an archeological dig to research my book, and it seemed like an answer from God. To earn money for my trip, I babysat for three small children. My husband encouraged me to go and volunteered to take over while I was away. But a few days before I was supposed to leave, our three children came down with the chicken pox. Then we discovered that my husband had never had them, and he became extremely ill. I called the tour organizers to try to cancel or at least postpone my trip only to learn that it wasn’t refundable, nor could I re-book my flight. I would lose all of the money I had worked so hard to save. In spite of his illness, my husband still encouraged me to go—while someone from church called to say, “I think it’s clear that God wants you to stay home and be a wife and mother, not a writer.” Had I really heard from God about being a writer? Why had my family become sick at the worst possible time? I wrestled with God for answers.

It’s in these times of wrestling that we often find ourselves drawing closer to God. I think of Jacob who returned to the Promised Land with his family at God’s command. Yet before he reached home, he learned that his brother, who had once threatened to kill him, was coming with a large army of men. Jacob wrestled with God all night long, and was changed from Jacob the “deceiver,” to Israel, which means “he struggles with God.”

As I wrestled with God about my trip to Israel, the reading for my morning devotions happened to be Psalm 48: “Walk about Jerusalem, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation.” I trusted God to take care of my family, and walked into my calling as a writer. The novel I researched, “Gods and Kings,” has since been translated into nine languages.fullsizerender

And what happened to the Dutch settlers in my novel “Waves of Mercy?” I won’t reveal any “spoilers” in case you’d like to read the book, but if you visit the town of Holland, Michigan today, you’ll find that the immigrants’ faith remains strong and vibrant. The town, with a population of 33,000, has more than 71 churches, including Pillar Church, built by the first settlers in 1856.pillar-church

1co15-58“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

My Imaginary Friends

An introduction to the characters in Waves of Mercy:

Released October 4, 2106

When my daughter was in pre-school she had an imaginary friend named Bareko. She talked about her constantly, and was so convincing that I made plans to invite Bareko to our house for a play date. I figured out that she was imaginary when I didn’t see her name on the class list. Later I learned that my daughter’s entire Sunday school class was praying for Bareko’s brother who had been in some sort of an accident. It’s very embarrassing when your child’s Sunday school teacher asks you for a follow-up report on an imaginary person!

But I have to confess that every time I create new characters for one of my novels, they become real people to me. That’s why it’s always sad to say goodbye to them when the novel ends. It’s like moving to a new city and making new friends, then having to move away again. Yet like good friends, they remain in my mind and heart forever. That’s the way I feel about Geesje and Anna and Maarten and Derk and Hendrik—and I can’t wait for you to get to know them, too.

I admire Geesje’s honesty, her willingness to write a truthful account of her life, including all of her faults and failures. How many of us would be willing to write down the story of our past and allow the people we love to know so much about us? I would certainly balk at the idea!

What I love about Anna is the way she questions things. Most of us would say that she lives a wonderful life of wealth and ease with a family and a handsome fiancé who love her. But Anna is courageous enough to look beneath the surface and ask if this charmed life is really the one God wants her to live.

Then there’s Maarten. I love his constancy and faithfulness—to the people he loves and to God. He is a behind-the-scenes character who fills an important role in the story and in Geesje’s life, whether she appreciates his efforts or not. Are there people like him in your life?

Derk is another one of those secondary characters, and his role is to act as a bridge between Geesje and Anna. He “wears his heart on his sleeve,” and I think his tenderness and compassion toward others will make him a wonderful minister. I’m blessed to have people like Derk in my life, people who love building bridges and bringing strangers together.

Hendrik turned out to be one of my favorite characters, even though I wasn’t too sure about him, at first. As I write my novels, I always create a bulletin board with pictures of what I think my characters look like, and this is the picture I chose for Hendrik:


I think it’s a worthwhile practice to take time to think about our real-life friends and the qualities we most admire most in each one. What lessons have they taught us? Are there ways we wish we could be like them? And when we’re finished, let’s stop and thank God for the gift of good friends!

Happy reading!

Waves of Mercy will be released October 4, 2016

Pre-order on Amazon today, click here.

Giving Back

Portland, Oregon

This week I have the privilege of coaching a group of writers at the Oregon Christian Writers’ Coaching Conference in Portland. I’m flying there today, in fact. This wonderful event offers writers a chance to meet with editors, authors, publishers and literary agents during the four-day conference. I’m really looking forward to being part of it!

Ever since I was asked to speak to writers for the first time years ago, I have leaped at the chance. It’s one of my favorite things to do, and my way of giving back to the wonderful, generous people who have mentored me along the way. I think especially of my first mentor, a dear Christian author named Alma Barkman. We first met more than thirty years ago.

S__36F4I lived in Canada back then and had just begun to write. But I was too timid to tell anyone except my husband about the novel I was working on during my children’s nap time. One day I felt God challenging me not to keep it a secret anymore. I needed to have the courage and faith to admit to anyone and everyone that I felt called to write Christian fiction. It was a scary step to take. What if people laughed at me? What if I failed?

One morning when my husband Ken was teaching music lessons at our home, one of his students, a friendly young fellow who was waiting for his turn, noticed me typing away at my desk. “Whatcha doing?” he asked.

I could have replied, “Just typing,” but I decided to be brave and admit the truth. “Well, I’m working on a novel. I want to be a writer.”

I waited for him to laugh or make a joke of it, but he smiled and said, “That’s really cool! My mom is a writer. You should meet her sometime.” When I asked what kind of writing she did, he got a little shy and said, “Well, we’re Christians. She writes devotions for a publisher called Moody Press in Chicago.”

mom and kids
Celebrating my first books with my kids

I was astounded! The next week his mother, Alma Barkman, came with him to his lesson. For the next few years, this amazing woman took me under her wing and taught me everything I needed to know about writing and getting published. She invited me to join her critique group and took me to my first writers’ conference. When my book was finally published, Alma said, “I feel like a proud, new grandmother!”

We lived in a city of some 300,000 people at the time, and yet God had brought one of the few published Christian writers right to my door! I still wonder where I would be today if I hadn’t taken that step of faith and found the courage to admit that God might be calling me to write.

quoteI understand the hopes and dreams of the writers I’ll be coaching in my class this week. And I can’t wait to encourage them to have faith, and to put their dreams in His hands, because God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine! (Ephesians 3:20).

It’s All About Story

3 Lynn at her deskI’m sitting in a comfortable chair in my living room with a cup of tea, surrounded by stacks of library books, my laptop, and some movies I plan to watch. To the untrained eye it appears that I’m loafing, but I’m actually hard at work, searching for new worlds to discover. In other words, I’m researching my next book.

Living in the Information Age is both a boon and a trap for authors. With so much detailed information available, it’s easy to get lost in the jungle of research and never find the trail home. To avoid getting sidetracked, the “compass” I use to direct my search is a simple one: I always look for a story.

Heinrich Schliemann
Heinrich Schliemann

Here’s what I mean. At this stage of the writing process, my research resembles a huge mountain of facts that I must conquer. I will undoubtedly need those facts at some point, but in these early days I focus instead on the stories I find buried among the details. I’m currently researching the early years of archaeology in the 1800s. Who were the great explorers? Where did they excavate? What did they uncover? Hidden among the facts was a story that reads like a fairy tale. Heinrich Schliemann grew up poor, reading the tales of Homer and dreaming of finding buried treasure. Beginning as an apprentice in the grocery business, he eventually became a self-made millionaire. At age 61, he set out to find the lost city of Troy, convinced that Homer’s legends weren’t myths but descriptions of actual events and places. With Homer as his guide, he uncovered ancient Troy and its golden treasures. Schliemann’s story brought the facts to life for me and offered valuable insights into my characters’ motivations.

A Light to My Path IIAt some point I will finally close the books and explore the settings for my novel. Again, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by hundreds of precise details such as a period mansion’s architecture and furnishings. As I research my settings, once again I’ll look for stories. For my Civil War novel, A Light to My Path, I toured a beautiful southern mansion, taking copious notes and pictures. The tour guide questioned my interest, and when I told her I was a novelist, she offered an exclusive, post-tour peek at the slave quarters behind the mansion.slaves quarters

plantationI knew it would take pages to describe the differences between the mansion and those hovels! But then the guide told me a story: The mansion’s owners fled when the city fell to Union soldiers. The newly-liberated slaves moved out of their squalid quarters and into the Big House, using their owners’ dishes, sleeping in their beds, wearing their clothes. Again, a story offered insight into my characters’ point of view and showed me how best to present the settings’ differences.

Eventually I’ll have to sift through my mountain of research and decide what goes into the book and what doesn’t. But the story gems I discover will provide a head start in creating my characters—and they’re the most important story element to me. I always begin with my characters. How I create them is another story . . .

Underwater Explorers

Last Saturday I attended a wonderful program by the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association—a group of divers who search for sunken ships in the Great Lakes. I attended their presentation last year and it inspired me to include a shipwreck in my upcoming novel. This is exciting stuff!

These shipwreck experts start their adventures the same way I start a novel—by doing research. They comb through piles of public documents, newspaper reports and eyewitness accounts to narrow down the wreck’s possible location. They search photos and drawings for the ship’s distinguishing details, such as size and profile. This research phase can be a treasure hunt in itself! But if they do their job well, the expedition has a better chance of success when the exploration phase begins.

Exploration involves creating an imaginary grid over the suspected area of the wreck and slowly sailing back and forth, using sonar to detect a sunken ship on the bottom of the lake. Scanning for hours and hours, days on end, sounds tedious to most people, but I sensed the experts’ excitement in this step of the search, too. It requires expertise to examine the grainy sonar pictures and interpret the findings. And when a sunken ship was finally spotted, everyone celebrated. I suppose most people would find my job tedious, sitting at a computer day after day, typing page after page, chapter after chapter until my novel is finished. While it appears to be boring, it takes expertise to create a story and get the words precisely right. And wise authors also celebrate their successes, big and small.

The last phase of underwater discovery is obviously the most enjoyable for these veteran divers. Armed with cameras and scuba equipment, the team finally has a chance to dive on the site and explore the wreck. I watched in fascination as ghostly images of these once-stately ships appeared on the theater screen, encrusted with shells, lying in their final resting places. I listened to the dramatic stories of their demise, usually due to violent storms. The divers became underwater detectives, solving the mystery of why and how each vessel sank, and where the ship and its crew came to their final end.

On one of the deeper dives, the team could spend only 30 minutes exploring the wreck before making the nearly two hour journey back to the surface, pausing to adjust to the changing pressure and avoid the deadly bends. I marveled at such disciplined devotion! Why do these divers do it? Since removing treasure from these wrecks is strictly forbidden, why make such a huge commitment of time and energy and finances to explore a sunken ship?

I suspect that the thrill of diving and solving a century-old mystery are rewards in themselves. But sometimes there are other surprises, too. In the audience on Saturday night was a gentleman who had been ten years old when he lost his father in the wreck of the William B. Davock, sunk during a storm on Lake Michigan seventy-five years ago. His father’s body was never recovered. Thanks to the work of these divers, the now-elderly gentleman was able to see images of his father’s final resting place and find closure after all these years. He sailed with the dive crew to the site on Lake Michigan and placed a memorial wreath in the water above his father’s grave.

I returned home from the program pondering why I write. There is some monetary gain, to be sure, but for me it’s also about the thrill of discovery and the satisfaction of seeing the results of my hard work and discipline in book form. Most of all, it’s about the joy I experience whenever I learn that one of my stories has touched someone’s life. I easily understood the joy those dedicated divers from the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association felt when they saw the tears of an eighty-five year old man who had waited a lifetime to find his father.

A Race to the Finish

The End Pic typewriterLife has its calm seasons and busy seasons, times when I can work at my leisure and actually enjoy what I do, and times when I’m forced to labor long into the night, fretting and worrying and racing to finish on time. Right now I’m in one of those crunch times. That’s because I’m within a few pages of finishing my newest novel and typing “The End.”

IMG_0524By now I know my characters and my plot very well. I know what my imaginary people were like in the beginning of the story and where I hoped they would end up. I’ve never piloted a jetliner but that’s what it feels like I’m doing in these final stages. I’ve been soaring high with great flights of imagination but now it’s time to land. I need to make sure all the plots and sub-plots are lined up correctly so I can touch down on solid ground and bring this enormous undertaking to a halt. If you’ve ever flown, I’m sure you remember how it feels to reach the airport terminal after a LONG journey, unbuckle your seatbelt, stand up straight, and give a sigh of relief that you’re finally home. That’s what it’s like when I type those wonderful words, “The End.”

typewriterIf I can land this novel within the next few days, I will have about a month remaining before my deadline. I’ll use that time to do a final read-through and another edit, tying up any loose ends and searching for ways to make the story even better. I can ask important questions like: Did I accomplish what I set out to do? Are my readers going to be drawn into the story and stay interested? Are they going to feel satisfied when they get to the end? … And how many tissues are they going to need? (I absolutely LOVE to read a book that makes me cry, don’t you?)

But to me, the most important part of this newly-finished novel is its spiritual content. Yes, I want to entertain my readers, but if my story doesn’t also give them a new insight, or help them through their own life journey, or remind them how very much God loves them, then my work is incomplete. I’ll be praying about this aspect of my novel too, as I read through it.

V__A7C1Once I turn in this book to my editor, I’m going to reward myself with a trip to Florida. That’s the carrot at the end of the stick I’m currently using to flog myself to finish. I have a wonderful vacation planned with my husband and our dearest friends. It includes lots of fun and laughter and good eating and bicycling. I posted these pictures from a previous trip beside my computer to keep me motivated during these final weeks of work.

But I can’t pack my bathing suit and bike helmet just yet. First I have to get back to work and get this book finished!P1030251

So how do you celebrate when all your hard work is finished?

Mule-Headed Stubbornness

Stubborn as a mule.
Stubborn as a mule. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

I’ve had my stubborn moments. Times when I’ve refused to do what I’m asked. When I’ve folded my arms and refused to budge. An incident in seventh grade art class comes to mind. The teacher assigned a short research report on any famous artist we chose. I liked art class. I liked our teacher, an exotic woman who wore her hair in a chignon and dressed in Bohemian clothes and seemed wildly out-of-place in our boring, conventional village. Writing came easily to me. The report would have been an easy A and I was an A student. But for reasons I still don’t understand, I didn’t do the assignment.

When my children used to turn stubborn I would get angry. When my husband turns stubborn I get frustrated. But when a character in a novel I’m writing becomes uncooperative, I’m baffled. I know, I know, I created these “people.” They exist only in my mind. How can they turn rebellious? Aren’t I in charge? Well, in a word . . . no. Once I’ve created them along with a resume of their likes and dislikes, quirks and fears, family histories and dreams, they become “real.” If I try to make them do something “out of character,” it rings false. They have a right to turn stubborn.

Have you ever read a story where the main character does something that doesn’t feel right? Something that makes you want to throw the book across the room in frustration and vow never to read a book by THAT author again? I suspect that the character did refuse to do what the author wanted but was forced to comply against her will.

A Light to My Path IIOne character who turned against me and my well-plotted plans was Kitty from my Civil War novel, “A Light to My Path.” She was a plantation slave who was supposed to escape. I had done tons of research about the Underground Railroad that I was eager to use. Grady, a fellow slave who she loved, was escaping with her. Conditions were perfect for a night-time getaway. But when the “now or never” moment came, Kitty refused to go. Grady left without her. And I was left with a plotting dilemma.

Depiction of the Underground Railroad
Depiction of the Underground Railroad

I could have forced Kitty to go, and maybe it would have turned out okay. Or maybe readers would have thrown my book across the room. From the moment I created Kitty, she was beaten down by her life of slavery. Her real name was Anna but her spoiled mistress renamed her and forced her to pretend she was a cat. Kitty was too terrified of the consequences to ever disobey. Slaves were chased down and mercilessly whipped for escaping. I researched the mosquito-filled, alligator-infested swampland on her escape route, and believe me, even the bravest soul might have refused. Kitty was not brave. To run away would have been completely out-of-character for her.

I used this swamp as inspiration
I used this swamp as inspiration

I’m now facing another stubborn character in the novel I’m currently writing. She has a difficult choice to make, one that’s going to affect the rest of her life—and the rest of my novel. I know what I want her to do. Readers will probably want her to do the opposite. But I’m relinquishing all of my plots and plans and letting her decide. She has to remain true to herself. I’m granting her free will.

My seventh grade art teacher was very surprised when I failed to turn in my paper. It was so out-of-character for me as an A student that she believed she had lost my paper. She asked if I still had the rough draft. Of course I didn’t. I would like to say that I confessed—but I didn’t. She asked if she could give me a B for the assignment and I agreed. I feel the guilt and shame of my deception to this day.

galatians-220_5618_1024x768I hope I’ve developed more honesty and integrity as I’ve matured in my Christian life. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” I hope it would be out-of-character for me now to behave in an un-Christ-like way. I long to be true to His character in all of the decisions and choices I make. To do otherwise after the price He paid as the Author of my salvation, would be sheer, mule-headed stubbornness.

The Last Step

The Restoration Chronicles

Authors perform hundreds of small steps in the process of publishing a book—some of them enjoyable and some…not so much. The last step is one of my favorites, and this week I had a chance to do it.

Researching in Jerusalem at Nehemiah's Wall
Researching in Jerusalem at Nehemiah’s Wall

Every novel I write begins as an idea—sometimes a grand one and sometimes just a tiny seed that needs to be nurtured. This involves brainstorming (alone and with my critique group), then researching (which is also an enjoyable step since it involves travel). Then I’m ready to start creating my characters. All of this takes about two months, and leads to the most time-consuming steps of all: writing drafts, and editing those drafts over and over and over for the next nine months until I’m happy with the result.

Behind the scenes at the photo shoot for "On This Foundation"
Behind the scenes at the photo shoot for the cover of “On This Foundation”

Somewhere along the way, (and long before the novel is finished), my publisher asks for a title and cover ideas, and I spend time collecting images and brainstorming titles. This is done ahead of time so the book can be listed in the sales catalogue. Sometimes my title and cover ideas are used…and sometimes they’re not. I’ll let you guess which makes me happier.

At last my book is finished. Well…not quite. Once I turn in my manuscript (hopefully by my deadline), my editor steps in. He and a team of in-house readers get to read it and comment on areas that might need more work. They give me about a month to “fix” these problems and make it a better book. Few authors want to hear that their “baby” isn’t perfect—including me. By now I’m weary of the manuscript and eager to start something new.

“On This Foundation” hot off the press!

But I make the necessary changes and the book moves to the final editing and proof-reading stages. I’ll see the manuscript two more times, once to view the editor’s changes and make any last minute changes of my own, and again when the page proofs are all laid out in their final form so I can check them for errors. Then it goes to the printer and becomes a “real” book. It’s a great feeling to finally hold the fruit of all my labors in my hands. But that’s not the last step. The very last step—and one of my favorites—is sharing the new book with my readers.

On October 1st, I signed books at the Kregel Parable Christian Store in Grandville, Michigan and met these wonderful ladies who belong to a book club:WP_000592

4And on October 10, I made more new friends when I spoke at Providence Christian College in Pasadena, California. Meeting my readers reminds me why I’ve been working so hard this past year, alone in my office for hours and hours, glued to my chair. It’s for all for them! Each time I begin a new book I ask God to use my words to touch someone with His love and grace. And even if only one reader is blessed, my labor is never in vain. When I meet readers at events like these, their stories and words of encouragement assure me that God is answering my prayer.

photo(2)Words are powerful things. I can’t begin to describe how a reader’s words of encouragement rejuvenate me. They motivate me to return to the work God has given me, and begin the year-long process of writing all over again. That’s why this last step is the best!

1-Thessalonians-5-11I’m sure you must have felt the power of an encouraging word in your life, too. If so, is there someone you can encourage in return today?

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up”(1 Thess. 5:11)

The Half-way Point

Old Books

Yesterday I reached the half-way point in the novel I’m writing. I figured that called for a celebration, so I went out to lunch with my sister-in-law. Now I confess that I’m a “seat of the pants” author who doesn’t lay out her plots ahead of time but who makes up the story as she goes along. So how do I know that I’m half finished? Simple. I know how many typewritten pages my last dozen novels were, so I calculated the average number of pages per book and divided it in half. Mathematically, I’ve now reached the half-way point—230 pages.

Never mind that I still don’t have a title for this book. And never mind that one of my characters has a heart-wrenching choice to make and I have no idea what she’ll decide. Or that another character has just agreed to marry a man she doesn’t love and I can’t talk her out of it. Never mind that I’ve killed off five of my favorite characters in various tragic ways (but for very necessary reasons), leaving me with a saddened and sorrowfully depleted cast to finish the story. I still thought it was appropriate to pause and celebrate the mythical, magical, mathematical half-way point.

typewriterAn interesting phenomenon happens to me (and to other writers, so I’ve heard) when we reach the middle of a book. Like marathon runners, we sometimes “hit the wall.” We run out of steam. We lose momentum. The race has begun to feel like work and we want to play. When this happens to me, my mind starts spinning plot ideas for the next novel and the one after that instead of plodding forward with my current plot. I get excited about meeting new characters, and I long to ditch the indecisive, needy ones I already have. They’ve become a bunch of malcontents, whining about the plot twists that entangle them, and growing petulant and uncooperative. I’ve threatened to kill off a few more of them if they don’t cooperate but it’s a bluff. I can’t risk running out of people before I run out of pages.

My board of characters
My board of characters

But all these wonderful, new characters! Ah! They’re dancing through my mind like the cast of a Broadway musical, bursting with laughter and fun and intrigue. “Come out and play,” they sing. Who cares about that woman who’s about to marry the wrong man? It serves her right if she ruins her life. And the indecisive one? Tell her to toss a coin and get it over with. There’s a new story to be written, a new game to play.

The End Pic typewriterSome writers say it’s best to go where your creativity leads and lay aside the half-finished book. Take time to develop all these great, new people and ideas while they’re fresh in your mind. Believe me, it’s tempting. But I know what will happen if I do. Sooner or later I’ll reach the half-way point in that book, and my once-energetic characters will start to slow down and sag and whine just like the last bunch. They’ll refuse to come out and play. The Broadway musical will close down. Meanwhile, I’ll have a deadline that has to be met. I need to type “The End” at the end of my half-finished book on January 15—a mere six months from now.

bible quoteSo I’ll enjoy my leisurely lunch—and then I’ll encourage myself to get back to work with these words: “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Come on, all you shiftless, lethargic characters! On your feet! On with the show! You’re only half-way to the finish line!photo(2)

They say the hardest thing in a writer’s life is the chair.


It’s summer and the weather is gorgeous. Blue skies and plenty of sunshine, pleasantly warm but not too hot. I want to be here, at the beach, a short walk from my house . . .IMG_0758

But I know I need to be here, in my office, at my desk, working on my next novel . . .FullSizeRender(5)

After writing 22 books, I know that if I don’t discipline myself to stay focused and write five days a week, I’ll suffer the consequences when my deadline arrives. And my deadline always arrives a mere two weeks after Christmas. With my far-flung family coming home for the holidays, I don’t want to ruin that treasured time with frenzied writing.

So I’m continuing to write on these beautiful summer days, but I’m cheating…just a little. I’m trying to have my cake and eat it too, as I find time to write yet still enjoy summer. One way I’m doing it is by taking my laptop out on our porch when I need to catch up on my office work. I can even write a scene or two out there. With a cold iced tea and a nice breeze, it’s almost a mini vacation.FullSizeRender(6)

I stop working and have lunch outside on our deck instead of at my desk so I can enjoy the birdsong and the sound of the wind in the trees.

Last week, I researched some history about the setting of my current novel by going on a historical walking tour with a museum docent and a nice group of tourists. Add in lunch at an outdoor café with my hubby afterwards, and voilà! Another mini vacation.FullSizeRender(4)

When I needed some research materials from our library, hubby and I put on our biking duds and rode our bicycles into town and back—a twelve mile round-trip. The trail follows the lake for part of the way, offering great views. And did I mention there’s an ice cream stand along the way?FullSizeRender(2)

I set writing goals for myself every day, but I also know that I’m fresher and more creative when I get a chance to enjoy nature. So, I’ve been making a point to walk on the beach as often as I can, sometimes in the morning when the day is fresh and new, the sand washed clean of footprints. Sometimes in the afternoon when I can pause beneath a beach umbrella for an hour or so and read a book while my husband swims—the water is too cold for me! And sometimes in the evening, when we can watch the sun set over the lake and enjoy the first stars as they appear in the sky. There’s something about the smell of sunscreen and lake water, the soft shushing of the waves against the shore, the feel of sand between my toes, that makes me relax and all my worries about deadlines and plot twists seem to vanish.FullSizeRender(7)

So for me, a little taste of summer, then back to work at a job I love. Balance is the key—hard work tempered with the rest God ordained for us. I think this scripture sums it up best: “When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19).FullSizeRender(3)

Thank you, Lord, for that gift!